English classes get tropical twist
A grant to English professor Patricia Saunders will bring a taste of Caribbean culture to campus this year.
Saunders, now in her fourth year at Bowdoin, has been awarded the first "Emerging Voices, New Directions" grant from the Ford Foundation. According to Saunders, her proposal Swimming Against the Tides: Caribbean Culture and Market Values in the Age of Globalization "incorporates a multidisciplinary approach to exploring Caribbean culture and globalization." The grant is offered to "individuals, organizations, and projects that work to maintain, interrupt, and transform relations of power in a global society."
The $42,000 grant will allow Saunders to "build an active reader" for her courses Caribbean Popular Culture: Narrative, Nationalism, and Identity (Africana Studies / English 287) and Literature, Culture, and Value in the Age of Globalization (English 336), both being taught for the first time this year with the first in the fall and the second in the spring. The classes will bring speakers from several different disciplines to campus. The grant also provides for four fellowships, three for students and one for a faculty member, for summer study in the Caribbean.
"The idea behind the grant is to expose Bowdoin students and faculty to the vast array of research and scholarship in Caribbean Studies being done abroad and in the United States as well," said Saunders.
Speakers will typically spend three or four days at Bowdoin, giving lectures, workshops, and independent study meetings. All events will be open to the public. Saunders hopes to reach beyond the Bowdoin community by holding some events in Portland.
The first lecture will be held on October 8 at 7 p.m. in Searles 315 with a reception to follow. Filmmaker Robert Yao Ramesar from the University of the West Indies campus in St. Augustine, Trinidad will deliver a talk called "Carib/being" and Shalini Puri from the University of Pittsburgh's Department of English will speak on "Indo-Caribbeans: Negotiating National Identities."
Other parts of the grant will include a reading group involving faculty in several disciplines from Bowdoin as well as Bates, Colby, Boston College, Harvard, and the University of Southern Maine; as well as curriculum development through meetings between faculty from Bowdoin and the University of the West Indies. Saunders spent last year on leave on a Porter Fellowship as a Visiting Professor in the Department of Liberal Arts at U.W.I. in St. Augustine.
The students in the 300-level class next spring will create presentations for public workshops on "a cultural practice, institution, or symbol from Caribbean or Caribbean-American culture" of their choice, and the value of these cultural symbols in the globalization era.
"The idea is that students will be able to share with their peers some of the extensive and complicated negotiations taking place beneath the surface of seemingly accepted notions of "belonging," "citizenship," "community" - all terms and ideas which are pushed to their limits as part of processes of globalization," said Saunders.
Saunders' first book, Disciplining Discourses, Translating Identities: Caribbean Literature and the "Quarrel with (H)istory," concerning literature, nationalism, and gender in the English-speaking Caribbean, evolved from her dissertation. Her second book project is on Jamaican popular culture, specifically dancehall music and culture.
"In this book I am interested in examining the extent to which globalization - and its attendant migrations, trends, ruptures, and collisions - are represented in Jamaican music," said Saunders. "One of the things I am most interested in is how economic policies (such as structural adjustment) are appropriated and transformed in cultural dialogues between the state and its citizens."
The book's topics are echoed in Caribbean Popular Culture. "We talk
a lot about the way migration and the movement of ideas, values, and identities
across national and international boundaries necessitates new critical
perspectives capable of identifying emerging modes of cultural expression."